Hello dear followers and fellow Walking Dead fanatics! My sincerest apologies for publishing my Walking Recap so delayed– a minor case of the infamous “con flu” (which, in my case, is really just a head cold brought on by post-NYCC exhaustion) has made me sluggish. But better late than never– let’s talk about that season 5 premiere, shall we!
This episode ushered in the new season with a literal bang; the entire episode was a metaphorical explosion– suspense coming to a head and bursting with violence, action and emotion over and over again, exhilarating and unrelenting– that also happened to feature an actual explosion. I give this season opener a 4.5 out of 5 crispy, flame-broiled walkers.
First of all, the voiceover snippets at the very beginning were deeply effective even if they were fleeting, as they’re paired with flashes of our train car bound survivors crafting makeshift weapons in preparation of their escape. Then, the show becomes a well-lit scene from a torture porn for a few white-knuckled minutes, as Rick, Daryl, Glenn and Bob Stookey are taken to the chopping block; that pun was very much intended, since the other gagged men with them are systematically and brutally beaten and killed, their blood draining into the trough-like sink they’re kneeling at, while another man lies dead, cut open on a table. So, the whole cannibal thing certainly becomes a lot clearer at this point. And poor Glenn– his buffoonish would-be killers keep getting interrupted by their leader, the smarmy hipster villain, Gareth. But every time they raise their bats and bludgeons only to be stopped, the gimmick remains tense and terrifying. Thank goodness for Gareth wanting to know their bullet count!
Well, of course, Rick proves his end-of-last-season statement, that Terminus’ overlords were screwing with the wrong people. They make their escape but thanks in large part to the aforementioned explosion, caused by none other than Carol! Good old Carol, always doing something insane to maybe save the day– except in this case, it really works, as both distraction and destruction. But, in carrying out this plan, she leaves gentle giant Tyrese with another of the hipster villains, who eventually threatens baby Judith’s life in one of the episode’s more quietly intense moments. Tyrese’s fury is eventually unleashed though– which was very satisfying to behold.
Anyway, back to Carol– her showdown with creepy Mary was awesome, because in a way, you sort of see them as two sides of the same coin. Both have gone more or less crazy at least in comparison with their former selves, doing things no woman– make that no human– should ever feel they have to. But Carol is seen more and more as a truly human anti-hero; she is not a cold sociopath but rather an extremely sacrificial realist.
Mary claims that things were worse before they took over Terminus– that they were beaten and raped by its former leaders until their mutiny. I don’t know if we’re being asked to weigh evil against evil in this post-apocalyptic scenario, but it is crucial that the episode is presented to us as “Now” and “Then,” the latter being a flashback to Mary and Gareth in the train car, and Gareth says– you’re either the butcher or you’re the cattle. It’s a haunting line that Mary even says to Carol during their confrontation. It speaks to the way many of these characters have negotiated or lost or refashioned their conceptions of their own humanity. It speaks to the way many of these characters have grappled with good and evil, ethics and necessity.
It’s a chilling and ominous line but nothing was more chilling than that secret post-credit scene– Morgan has returned! We see a masked man find Rick’s edits to the Terminus signs (they now say “No Sanctuary”) and when he reveals his face, it is exciting and shocking– what will this mean for the rest of the season?
Among the many amazing moments of this episode, my favorite has got to be the Daryl-Carol reunion. Their emotional embrace was too much for me, although I really hope Daryl and Beth are reunited at some point as well– I grew to like their dynamic even more. But even so, the look on Daryl’s face of relief and elation was wonderful and proved that the human element of this genre show about the dead is very much alive.